How To Grow Herbs In Containers
It's Easy to Grow Herbs in Virtually Any Pot or Container!
Types of Pots or Containers for Herbs
Most herbs can be grown in virtually any kind of pot or container. The key element to choosing a vessel to grow your herbs in is drainage. You will have far greater success with a container that has adequate drainage versus a closed container, although a non-draining container can be adapted to successfully grow plants... a topic we will address in a separate article.
Pots and containers are made from many different materials, including plastic, clay, ceramic, wood fiber, peat, and more. The best materials for your containers are porous, such as clay pots, soft-sided fabric pots, wood fiber pots, coir fiber pots , or peat pots ... however, they are not always readily available. Plastic pots and ceramic garden pots will do in a pinch though, and are probably more widely used than any others.
The next key element of choosing a container is size. Be sure to choose a pot that is appropriately sized for the plant you plan to transplant or grow in the pot. If the container is of insufficient size, the plants may quickly become root-bound, resulting in less than satisfactory results. Also pay attention to the depth of the pot, as some herbs send out a long tap root that must be accommodated.
Soil or Growing Medium for Potted Herbs
Herbs grown in pots or containers require a well draining potting mix, an organic enriched potting mix, or a coco coir based soilless mix. Just digging up some dirt from your outdoor garden and throwing it into a pot is the surest way to fail when growing herbs in containers.
There are many new "soilless" growing mediums available today that are suitable for growing herbs in containers, provided a regular feeding regimen with a complete mineral plant nutrient is provided. These include Grodan rockwool grow cubes, coco coir peat, Growstones (a recycled glass growing medium), and others.
Feeding Your Herbs
Like humans, plants must be fed as well. In fact, since human life relies almost completely on plant life, it is most important that your food and herbs are fed a complete and balanced diet of nutrients as well, since you are ultimately the final recipient of this nutrition.
Given a growing media rich in organics, most herbs don't require much in the way of supplemental plant food. Some herbs can grow in just about any type of soil, although providing an optimum growing environment for any herb will increase its health, vigor, and productivity. That being said, many herbs literally thrive when provided with supplemental nutrients.
One of the easiest and best methods for providing these nutrients in containers for most herbs is by planting in a rich organic growing medium and watering with an organic based compost tea. Compost and teas assure a complete feeding by all of the elements found in nature that nurture healthy plant growth. Keeping in mind that there are a few exceptions, the ideal in most cases is to provide a complete nutrient regimen. Due to their comprehensive nutrient composition, many plant nutrients manufactured for hydroponic gardening are ideally suited for growing herbs in containers as well.
Proper Watering of Herbs in Pots
The key to correctly watering most any potted plant is thoroughness. The reason we desire a well draining growing medium is so the roots get the proper amount of air and oxygen relative to the amount of water they receive. Too much water with too little drainage can cause root rot and stunted root systems. Too little watering can result in only portions of the rootball receiving adequate hydration, which can also lead to poor growth.
As such, it is important to completely water the growing medium so that there is significant runoff from the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot... at least 25 percent by volume of what you put in should be allowed to drain from the bottom of your pot. Then let the pot go almost bone dry, so that the top two or three inches of the soil are completely dry, prior to soaking the pot again. This assures that all areas of the root ball are completely and regularly irrigated with water and nutrients, while assuring that the roots receive adequate oxygen for healthy plant growth.
Placement of Potted Herbs
Where you place your potted herbs is important. Indoors, many sites recommend placing your herbs in a south facing window, however, unless that window gets at least six hours of direct sun per day, any window environment should be considered a lower light situation. Of course, most herbs will do wonderfully indoors under artificial, or grow lights, a topic we cover in far more detail on our Growing Herbs Indoors page.
Varieties that require high light conditions include Anise, Arnica, Basil, Borage, Calendula, Caraway, Catnip, Chicory, Cilantro/Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Mustard, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Summer Savory, Tarragon, Thyme, and Yarrow. A high light scenario would require plants to be in direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours per day.
Varieties that can tolerate some shade include Aloe, Beebalm, Chamomile, Chervil, Chives, Comfrey, Echinacea, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, Marjoram, Mints, Nasturtium, Parsley, Soapwort, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Violet, and Wintergreen.